From 11 May 2023, Iwalewahaus will be showing the exhibition AL’UMMA, Society Celebrating Life by the artists Nina Fischer-Stephan and Mudi Yahaya. The exhibition emerged from a project realised last year in Lagos and will be on display in Bayreuth until 15 December 2023. Photographs from the estate of German photographer Nina Fischer-Stephan (1922-2018), taken in Northern Nigeria in the early 1960s, is one position, the second a contemporary one, by Lagos-based photographer Mallam Mudi Yahaya, who has been photographing and filming society in Northern Nigeria for more than eighteen years. The exhibition was curated by Gisela Kayser, one of the most experienced curators of photography in Berlin.
Fig. above: AL’UMMA Society Celebrating Life 6, Mallam Mudi Yahaya
The exhibition AL’UMMA Society Celebrating Life offers a focused look through the lens of photography at medieval architecture, aesthetics, fashion, social structures and communal celebration of a majestic history and tradition of the dominant culture and largest ethnic group in West Africa – the Hausa culture. The Arabic loanword AL’UMMA means both society and people, and serves here as a key to understanding the social and cultural life of Hausa culture, which has spread with significant populations to Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Chad, Sudan, Togo, Ghana, Gabon, Senegal and The Gambia.
The exhibition offers two artistic positions, one from the archives of the Iwalewa House with the works of German photographer Nina Fischer-Stephan taken in Northern Nigeria in the early 1960s, and the second contemporary perspective of Nigerian artist, writer and archivist Mudi Yahaya, who has been photographing the Hausa Society for more than eighteen years and has expanded the conversation about the importance and enormous but critical cultural and artistic possibilities in dealing with archives, as he has done as an “artist in the archive” at the Iwalewahaus.
After twenty-five years and three hundred exhibitions of documentary, political and artistic photography at the WillyBrandt-Haus in Berlin, Gisela Kayser has experience in this field like no other. As artistic director and managing director of the Friends of the Willy Brandt House, she and her team were responsible for the house’s cultural programme and provided important impulses for social discourse. She accompanied and supported further exhibition projects in museums and galleries as a curator, was a jury member for several award ceremonies at the Berlin University of the Arts, nominator at the International Center of Photography New York and jury member for the Alfred Fried Photography Award 2019. Since July 2021, Gisela Kayser has been working internationally as a freelance curator for selected projects.
Born in Munich in 1922, Nina Fischer-Stephan grew up in a cultural environment. Her father is an opera singer; her mother gives up her own career plans to accompany her husband on the piano. In 1959, Nina Fischer-Stephan travels to Africa for the first time and is so fascinated that she and her husband decide to live on the continent in the future. They return to Germany briefly and, after looking at the map, quickly decide on Nigeria because of its enormous cultural wealth. Ibadan becomes their new home for the next few years. Their son Oliver goes to school here. Nina Fischer-Stephan travels extensively through Africa with her husband Klaus Stephan, who works as a special correspondent for the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation in Nigeria, and works with him on TV reports. Nina Fischer-Stephan began to take photographs and over the years an extensive body of work emerged. The result is a rich and hitherto unexplored documentation of the art and cultural history of the newly independent African countries, with a focus on West Africa.
Mudi Yahaya is a visual artist whose work explores interpretations of African hybrid identities, in their different visual dialects, currencies and vocabularies. In the face of massive digitisation of media data, Mallam Mudi explores an aesthetic that connects postcolonial, post-global African identities, mediated through photography and cinema, with politics, philosophy, history, time, religion, power, violence, intolerance, gender and racial issues. Mudi’s work further focuses on the relationships and tensions between images as they interact with notions and strategies of postcolonial deconstruction and decolonisation of African identity in syncretic African spaces and non-spaces. Mudi’s interest in identity also extends to photo archives, where he conceptually explores counter-narratives of photographic construction and representation that address the relationship between the photo archive and the idea of a nation and national identity. His conceptual archival projects take as their starting point the performativity and multimodality of photo archives, presenting archival photographs as visual resources that influence semiotic construction with sociocultural meaning.
Thursday, 11 May until Friday, 15 December 2023
Mon-Fri 9 am – 3 pm